A Win­ter’s Tale

India Today - - BEST OF INDIA - By Derek O’brien, chief whip of TMC, Ra­jya Sabha

In Kolkata, we call it “the Week”, the fi­nal seven days of the year. It be­gins on the evening of De­cem­ber 24. Af­ter a Christ­mas Eve din­ner, you make your way to church. The show­piece event is of course at St Paul’s Cathe­dral. Thou­sands get to church by 11 p. m. At least a third of them are Hin­dus and Mus­lims, Sikhs and Par­sis, even cu­ri­ous athe­ists and ag­nos­tics. At 11.30 p. m., carol ser­vice be­gins. In half an hour, it’s the magic mo­ment. From 12 to 1.30 a. m., there’s the church ser­vice, part of it lit by noth­ing more than warm hearts and shim­mer­ing can­dles. Peo­ple dress in their finest — in suits and saris, bow ties and shawls. For eight years, even Chief Min­is­ter Ma­mata Ban­er­jee has been at­tend­ing midnight mass, al­ter­nat­ing be­tween Catholic and Protes­tant ob­ser­vances.

Midnight mass in Kolkata is a trib­ute to the plu­ral­ism of the city and na­tion. Where else would the fes­ti­val of a mi­nor­ity be so will­ingly em­braced by the ma­jor­ity and even other mi­nori­ties? As midnight mass ends and the night de­scends, we go home to the cheer of “Merry Christ­mas”. Kolkata keeps its tryst with yet an­other Burra Din.

DE­BA­JY­OTI CHAKRABORTY

DEREK O’BRIEN

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